FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Alandise Harris enjoyed his best performance in Southeastern Conference play with a 16-point effort at Missouri on Thursday.
Harris didn’t exactly characterize his earlier issues as struggles, though.
“I just wasn’t playing,” said Harris, who averaged 6.4 points in Arkansas’ first seven SEC games. “That’s all that is. The reason? I don’t know. I just wasn’t playing.”
Harris should be on the floor plenty when the Razorbacks (15-9, 4-7) return home to play LSU (15-8, 6-5) in Bud Walton Arena at 4 p.m. today. The junior has played a key role in Arkansas’ improved play the past three games.
It has come after Harris and guard Michael Qualls were suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team” before Arkansas’ first meeting with LSU. Both were reinstated before Arkansas played Alabama and have played a big role.
“They’re having an impact on our basketball team,” Anderson said. “They give us some athletic guys and give us some toughness. They’re a big part of the team.”
Harris may not have produced a game-winning moment like Qualls’ 3-pointer in the final seconds at Vanderbilt last Saturday. But he has been steady off the bench.
His eight-point spurt in the second half against Alabama was key in helping the Razorbacks snap a two-game losing skid. Harris was vital in helping Arkansas stay in position to beat Missouri on Thursday night, too, going 6-for-11 from the field.
“He played like a warrior,” Anderson said.
Harris is averaging 9.7 points in the past three games after scoring seven total in the three games before the suspension. Harris played just 24 minutes in those games.
Anderson pointed to Harris’ rebounding in conference play as a reason he wasn’t getting much time. Harris only grabbed one rebound at Missouri, but Anderson said there’s no doubt the forward has made an impact since his return.
“He’s doing other things,” Anderson said. “He’s putting bodies on people. He’s doing the grunt work. That’s why I have to go back and look at the tape and see what’s taking place. A lot of times he is keeping some of those big guys off so maybe our guards can get in there and Bobby (Portis) and those guys can get some rebounds.
“I think he is pretty active. Now we certainly want more rebounds from him but I think he is giving us everything he’s got.”
Harris and the rest of the Razorbacks will have to hit the boards against an LSU front line that gave Arkansas fits in Baton Rouge, La., two weeks ago.
Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey combined for 45 points and 20 rebounds in LSU’s 88-74 win, battering the short-handed Razorbacks. The Tigers have struggled on the road in SEC play (1-5), but will lean on its front line once again.
“To be a good road team and get wins, you have to be a really good basketball team,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “That’s what we are striving for. We think that we’ve made some positive strides, but we haven’t gotten to the area yet away from home playing at that level that you have to be able to raise your level.”
Arkansas could be short-handed against LSU again after forward Moses Kingsley left the Missouri game with what appeared to be a back injury. Anderson said Kingsley — who leads Arkansas in blocked shots and is fourth in rebounding — didn’t participate in Friday’s practice and is questionable for today’s game.
“We’ll see how that works out,” Anderson said. “He played well down there last time and gives us a presence inside especially on the defensive side and offensively. Hopefully we will have him.”
The Razorbacks will play in front of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is being honored by the program during a celebration of its six Final Four teams at halftime. Clinton will receive a No. 42 jersey for his part in Arkansas’ run to the 1994 championship, while members of the six Final Four teams will be recognized as well.
“It’s good to bring back a lot of the guys that actually are responsible for the program, where it is today, this building, the winning tradition,” Anderson said. “There’s a tremendous history, and sometimes the story’s not told quite properly. But I want our guys to understand and relish it, as well as I’m sure our fans will love to see those guys, all under one roof.”
Arkansas wants to top off the celebration with a much-needed win as it tries to keep its dimming NCAA Tournament hopes intact.
Harris and the rest of the Razorbacks are confident they can accomplish it even after the disappointing loss at Missouri on Thursday night.
“We’ve got to turn around, focus and get this win at home,” Harris said. “It’s simple. Get a win.”
LSU (15-8, 6-5 in SEC) at Arkansas (15-9, 4-7 in SEC)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Razorback Stadium
Radio: Razorback Sports Network
Series: Arkansas leads 31-26
Last Meeting: LSU 88, Arkansas 74 on 2/1/14
Coaches: Arkansas — Mike Anderson (52-36 in third season); LSU — Johnny Jones (34-20 in second season
Projected Lineups: Arkansas — F Bobby Portis (6-10, Fr., 13.2 ppg), F Coty Clarke (6-7, Sr., 8.8 ppg), G Mardracus Wade (6-1, Sr., 3.3 ppg), G Ky Madden (6-5, Jr., 12.9 ppg), G Fred Gulley (6-2, Sr., 4.5 ppg); LSU — F Jordan Mickey (6-8, Fr., 13.7 ppg), F Johnny O’Bryant III (6-9, Jr., 15.6 ppg), F Jarrell Martin (6-9, Fr., 9.5 ppg), G Shavon Coleman (6-5, Sr., 8.9 ppg), G Anthony Hickey (5-11, Jr., 9.0 ppg)